Is plastic packaging bad for your health?

You cannot walk into a convenience store without seeing something in plastic packaging. Plastic packaging is abundant in our environments. However, plastics contain chemicals that are not only harmful to human bodies but that are also harmful to the environment as well. Read this blog to learn more about how plastics effect the body and how to avoid them.


Plastic is everywhere, and an essential part of our modern lives.

But many of us know that single use plastic is harmful to the planet. So we try to avoid it. Perhaps we try to cut down on purchasing plastic by ordering specialty products online. However, what about the packaging that our products come in? Or worse, our food? We often don’t give plastic packaging a second thought when we tear them open.

What if we pause and think about the plastic packaging itself?

What is it made of? Is it toxic? Is that information even available? (The answer, “not really” is perhaps not surprising).

Can plastic packaging contain chemicals that harm you, your family, or your pets?

Plastic is Everywhere

Plastic, prophetically, has become big business, especially for oil companies. Pretty much everything we buy is wrapped in plastic. From the bulk packages of toilet paper, paper plates, or individually wrapped items like a new toothbrush, a bag of baby spinach, or Halloween candy. 

Online purchases, always popular, have surged during the coronavirus pandemic. Almost every package contains plastic wrapping, envelopes, or cushioning.

It is all surrounded by plastic. 

What is plastic packaging made of?

Most plastic has a number on it to indicate the primary material it contains. The number (1 through 7) is encircled by the traditional three arrow recycling logo.

This seems simple. However, researchers have shown that 906 chemicals are likely associated with plastic packaging.

That’s right, there are not just 7 possible chemicals that are used in plastic packaging. The other 899 chemicals are:

Further, while plastics #1-6 indicate specific chemical building blocks, #7 lumps many different chemicals together into the “other” category. This means it can be made from anything. It also is not typically recyclable.

Unfortunately, there is no single place you can go to find out everything that a plastic package might contain.

To help with this, researchers at the Food Packaging Forum made a database: “Chemicals associated with Plastic Packaging.” This database was made by reviewing information from the EPA, plastics additives database, and several research publications.

They found a whopping 906 chemicals can be found in plastic.

What does that mean for your health?

Does plastic packaging contain chemicals that can cause harm?

The Food Packaging Forum looked at each of the 906 chemicals for hazard to health. They used information from the European Chemicals Agency, the European Commission, and the UNEP report on EDCs.

Here is a quick breakdown of the data they found:

  • There was no safety information for 60% of the chemicals

  • 148 chemicals were identified as highly hazardous

  • Many additives contained hazardous metals like cadmium, lead, mercury, tin, and cobalt

  • Surfactants made up large portion of the most hazardous toxins in packaging

In addition, 15 chemicals were found to be toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals. These chemicals “look” like hormones in the body, and mess up normal hormone function. They can cause a host of health problems

Many of the chemicals found in plastics are known hazards to human health and the environment. But little safety information is known about 40% of the chemicals that are likely found in plastic packaging.

How do toxic chemicals from plastic packaging get into your body?

Chemicals from packaging can leach into food. In fact, according to a recent review of 1,200 studies, pretty much “everyone who eats food is exposed.” 

Heating food in plastic increases chemical leaching. This can happen during factory processing or our own homes, in microwaves and ovens. 

Soda and food cans are often lined with plastic coatings which leach toxic chemicals into food. Acidic foods (such as canned tomatoes) may increase leaching. 

However, leaching into water can also happen at room temperature.

Packaged food can become contaminated during factory processing. You may have recently heard about phthalate contamination of boxed macaroni and cheese. Phthalates are toxic chemicals used in soft plastics, and have been banned from children’s toys.

Toxic chemicals from packaging could also potentially leach into personal care products, such as lotions or shampoos.

How can I avoid exposures to toxic chemicals?

  • Try to avoid plastic packaging. Buy in bulk. Opt for glass over cans or plastic jars.

  • Use glass or metal reusable water bottles. Avoid bottles lined with plastic resin.

  • Wash your hands after handling plastic

  • Do not eat, heat, or store food in plastic containers

Get Tested

Million Marker has developed an easy way to get yourself tested to learn whether you are being exposed to common toxic chemicals. This way, you can identify possible sources of exposures and eliminate them. Find out more here!